Virginia law has many statutes on the books related to illegal possession of prescription drugs, but understanding that legal landscape can be more confusing than with illegal narcotics. With substances like heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs, it’s very clear that possession is a crime. But it’s a little murkier with prescription drugs.
As a rule, you can be charged with drug crimes if you’re found to be in possession of prescription drugs without a valid prescription. But there’s additional nuance as well.
Defining illegal possession of prescription drugs
Drugs falling into this category are drugs that can be legally prescribed for a valid medical purpose. Opioid painkillers are one of the most prominent examples, but stimulants, antipsychotics and other types of medication are included too.
If a person possesses this class of drug without a valid prescription, or if they possess an amount exceeding what the prescription allows, that person is illegally possessing those drugs and can be charged with drug offenses.
A commonly related crime is using a fraudulent prescription to obtain prescription drugs.
Charges associated with illegal prescription drug offenses
Illegal prescription drug charges may be felony or misdemeanor offenses. Generally, misdemeanors carry relatively lenient penalties, while felony charges can have far more severe consequences.
If you’re a first-time offender possessing a relatively small quantity of controlled medications, charges against you would likely be misdemeanors.
However, if you’ve been convicted of previous offenses (especially drug-related offenses) or you’re found with a large quantity of drugs, felony charges or more likely. Any participation in creating or using fraudulent prescriptions are also likely to incur felony charges.
While prescription drugs are legal with a valid prescription, possessing them without one is a crime in Virginia. Obtaining, using or selling prescription drugs without a prescription can carry severe penalties, depending on the circumstances of the case.